Round 28: Teams send messages with road wins
Three of Thursday's four games were won by the visiting teams, including victories for playoff-bound sides Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul and Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens, which showed just how strong they are at this time of the season. The only road loser on Thursday was Zalgiris Kaunas, which actually had its playoff spot secured by virtue of other results. Friday brings four more contests to wrap up the last double-round week of the regular season, leaving just two rounds to go, but plenty to be decided still, before the playoffs.
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade 63-80 Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul
With an impressive long-range shooting display, defending champion Fenerbahce assured itself home-court advantage in the playoffs by running away from host Crvena Zvezda for a 63-80 victory on Thursday. Fenerbahce's 11th win in the last 13 games gave it a 20-8 record to retain hold of second place, while already-eliminated Zvezda dropped to 11-17. Ali Muhammed pumped in 7 of Fenerbahce's 14 three-pointers – 13 of which came in the first three quarters – on his way to a season-high 25 points, one short of tying his career high. Nikola Kalinic followed with 10 points, while Jan Vesely and Marko Guduric scored 9 each. Dejan Davidovac had the best scoring game of his rookie season with 18 points for Zvezda.
Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv 75-76 Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens
Panathinaikos delivered a crushing blow to Maccabi's playoff hopes and boosted its own chances for a top four finish with a 75-76 win at Menora Mivtachim Arena on Thursday night. Mike James tied a career high with 27 points, including the game-winner with 5.8 seconds left to lead the Greens, which improved to 17-11 and tied for the fourth-best record in the league. Maccabi fell to 13-15 and will face elimination next week when it visits Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz. Ian Vougioukas added 16 points on perfect shooting in 15 minutes off the bench and Nick Calathes tallied 10 points and 4 assists in setting a new single-season assist record with 204. DeAndre Kane led Maccabi with a career-high 19 points plus 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Against the league's top-rebounding team, Panathinaikos collected 13 offensive boards and outrebounded Maccabi 32-42 in one of the keys to the game.
Real Madrid 88-81 Zalgiris Kaunas
Real Madrid took a step forward in its race to claim home-court advantage in the playoffs by topping Zalgiris Kaunas 88-81 in the Spanish capital on Thursday. Madrid improved to 17-11 in the standings and Zalgiris dropped to 16-10. Despite the loss, Zalgiris qualified for the playoffs for the first time since this phase returned to the competition in 2005. Felipe Reyes led the winners with 16 points, Fabien Causeur added 14 and Luka Doncic returned from injury to produce 11 points and 7 assists. Paulius Jankunas paced the visitors with 21 points. Zalgiris led 41-48 early in the second half, but Facu Campazzo and Causeur rescued Madrid, which rallied to lead 65-62 after 30 minutes. Jankunas and Pangos had Zalgiris within 75-74 midway through the fourth quarter, but Trey Thompkins scored 6 unanswered points, which helped make the difference.
AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan 89-93 Valencia Basket
In an entertaining clash of two previously-eliminated teams, Valencia Basket went on the road and held off AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan 89-93 at PalaBancoDesio in Desio, Italy. Valencia improved to 11-17 and Milan dropped to 9-19. It was a game with offenses in good rhythm and teams shooting well from long range, with Valencia making 12 of 25 triples and Milan 14 of 29. The visitors led 74-85 lead midway through the fourth quarter, but Curtis Jerrells rallied the hosts. However, Valencia survived the comeback as Erick Green netted 18 points, while Tibor Pleiss had 11 points and 8 rebounds. For the hosts, Vladimir Micov starred with a career-high 27 points on 7-for-9 three-point shooting plus 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
Khimki Moscow Region vs CSKA Moscow
A crosstown derby in the Russian capital will see Khimki (16-11) attempt to maintain pace in the race for a top four finish, no doubt hoping that CSKA (22-5) is already in playoffs preparation mode after already securing a first-place finish with Wednesday's victory over Olympiacos. Khimki's playoffs-clinching win at Efes earlier this week was based on a defense which only allowed 24 points in the second half, and that kind of resistance will again be crucial against a CSKA team which ranks among the most potent offenses in EuroLeague history, averaging 89.6 points per game. It's a meeting of the league's top two scorers as Alexey Shved (21.8 ppg) faces Nando De Colo (17.1 ppg).
Brose Bamberg vs Unicaja Malaga
A climb up the standings is the motivation as Brose (10-17) faces Unicaja (11-16), whose playoffs chances may or may not remain by tipoff because they no longer depend solely on the visitors. Brose has been in great form at home in recent weeks, winning four games in a row in Freak City, but Unicaja comes off a morale-boosting victory against fellow Spanish side Barcelona two days earlier, snapping a three-game losing streak. Brose are one of the league’s worst rebounding teams, averaging 31.9 boards per game, so Unicaja (35.3 rpg) will look to control the paint through James Augustine, who has claimed more rebounds than any other player so far this season.
Olympiacos Piraeus vs Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Olympiacos (18-9) will seek to bounce back from two straight losses to claim a victory which could be enough for homecourt advantage in the playoffs, depending on other results. Efes has lost six games in a row (6-21) and needs to win its remaining games to have any chance of avoiding a last-place finish. Former Olympiacos man Bryant Dunston, who averages 5.7 rebounds per game) will give his team a strong inside presence and his battle with Nikola Milutinov (5.3 rpg) promises plenty of big collisions. Efes had mixed fortunes on offense in its last game against Khimki, scoring 29 points in the first quarter but only 24 in the second half, and will need to be at its best for 40 minutes on this occasion.
FC Barcelona Lassa vs Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz
The double-week closes with a Spanish derby which carries huge significance for a Baskonia (14-13) team gunning to protect its current position in the top half of the standings. Host Barcelona (9-18) has no chance to advance, but presents a major offensive threat after scoring 88, 90 and 91 points in its last three games. Baskonia is no slouch in that department, winning its last four games by averaging 88.8 points per game. The Round 14 meeting in Vitoria, taken 85-82 by Baskonia, was one of the best games of the season and another high-scoring shoot-out could be on the cards on Friday night.